A 10-year U.S.-Canada treaty that will govern
harvest of salmon in Alaska and British Columbia is set to be ratified by the
two nations, the states of Washington and Oregon, British Columbia and
Northwest and Columbia River treaty tribes.
The Pacific Salmon Commission made up of
representatives from all the governments recently completed an update to the
current treaty that will end Dec. 31, 2018. The new Pacific Salmon Treaty will
extend the treaty out to 2028.
One of the most significant aspects of the new
agreement is management of chinook salmon listed under the U.S. Endangered
Species Act in Puget Sound and the Columbia River basin. Many of these stocks
migrate north to British Columbia and Alaska where they are harvested in
“I’m pleased the Commission was able to bring
forward this recommendation, and that the Parties were able to reach an
agreement that we feel will support the conservation and long-term
sustainability of this important resource” said Rebecca Reid, Canadian
Vice-Chair of the Commission and Regional Director General, Fisheries and
Oceans Canada, Pacific Region.
Under the new agreement, catches of chinook
salmon in southeast Alaska will be reduced up to 7.5 percent from 2009 levels
in years when poor returns of the fish are expected. Likewise, British Columbia
has also agreed to reduce harvest under the same conditions – up to 12.5 reduction
percent from 2009-2015 levels.
Other changes recommended by the Commission
are new conservation objectives for several of the salmon populations, as well
as a renewed commitment to science and stock assessments to inform
decision-makers in both countries, the Commission said.
The agreement also applies to other salmon
stocks and to other west coast fisheries to ensure that harvests remain
strongly tied to conservation objectives. Oregon said that the result will be
an increased abundance of chinook returning to Oregon waters.
“I praise the efforts of the joint US/Canada
Pacific Salmon Commission for approving strong recommendations to the Pacific
Salmon Treaty,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. “Successful updates to the Pacific
Salmon Treaty through 2028 will help ensure long-term sustainable and healthy
salmon populations that are vital to the people of the Pacific Northwest, and
to the entire ecosystem.”
The first such treaty was ratified in 1985 as
the two countries agreed to cooperate in the management, research and
enhancement of Pacific salmon stocks of mutual concern (see the Pacific Salmon
Commission website at https://www.psc.org/publications/pacific-salmon-treaty/).
However, the treaty became “outmoded” in 1992
when the original treaty expired and the two countries could not reach an
agreement on coast-wide fisheries until 1999. That 10-year treaty expired in
2008 and a new conservation and harvest-sharing treaty was hammered out in May
2008, with the ratified treaty lasting from 2009 to the end of this year.
“A high degree of cooperation is required to
prevent overfishing, provide optimum production and ensure that each country
receives benefits that are equivalent to the production of salmon in its
waters,” the Salmon Commission said in a news release. “With the current harvest
sharing agreement set to expire on December 31, 2018, Canadian and U.S.
representatives on the Commission met regularly over the course of two years
for extensive negotiations leading to the new 10-year proposal.”
“We faced some very challenging issues in
these negotiations,” said Phil Anderson, lead negotiator for the U.S. and
former director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “I
appreciate everyone’s willingness to work together to come up with a plan that
will create a better future for salmon in Washington.”
The proposed agreement will manage harvests of
highly-migratory salmon stocks from Cape Falcon, Oregon in the south to
Southeast Alaska in the north, including pink, coho, sockeye, chum and chinook
“It was gratifying to know throughout the
negotiations that conservation of coastwide salmon stocks was the highest
priority of every commissioner,” said NOAA Fisheries’ Bob Turner, U.S.
Commissioner and current Chair of the Commission.
“This step comes at a crucial time as we
continue to see declines in chinook salmon populations around Puget Sound,”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said. “As we work with our international partners to
send more fish into our waters, it becomes even more crucial that state leaders
do what’s necessary to protect and restore habitat and address the dire needs
of these fish.”
U.S. members of the Salmon Commission will
also begin work to finalize new federal funding agreements over the next month.
The funding is needed to support Puget Sound habitat improvements and
protection, and to implement hatchery conservation programs.
“The funding will also be critical to
commitments to science and stock assessment needed to successfully manage these
complex interjurisdictional fisheries,” an Oregon Department of Fish and
Wildlife news release says.
“Additional federal funding is essential in
order to make the key conservation work possible to recover salmon, and in
turn, our orcas,” Inslee said.
Funding requests will include money and
programs to support recovery efforts for endangered Southern Resident Killer
Whales. Orcas in Puget Sound rely on chinook as a primary food source and have
struggled because of the decline of the fish.
U.S. commissioners anticipate a funding
request that is equal to or more than the 2009 one-time request of $50 million.
The governments of Canada and the United
States must approve the recommendations of the Pacific Salmon Commission before
implementation can occur beginning January 1, 2019.
--CBB, April 6, 2018, “Alaska Announces
Reduced Harvest Limit For Struggling Southeast Alaska Chinook,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440467.aspx
--CBB, March 16, 2018, “Washington Governor
Signs Executive Order To Protect Orcas, Chinook Salmon,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440354.aspx